A church in the New Haven, Connecticut parish at which the Knights of Columbus was founded was vandalized this week, with a satanic symbol painted on the door.
Fr. Michael McGivney, who will soon be beatified, began his priestly ministry at St. Mary’s Parish in New Haven, the city’s first parish, in 1877. The priest founded the Knights of Columbus there in 1882.
In 2018, nearby St. Joseph Church became part of St. Mary's Parish during a diocesan consolidation process. Fr. John Paul Walker, OP, the parish pastor said in a Facebook post Thursday that vandalism at St. Joseph Church had taken place overnight.
“Words and various symbols including a satanic one were painted on the outside doors of the church,” Walker said.
“While we assess the situation and make plans to bless the church, the church will remain closed at least through the end of the day today,” he said. “Our two daily Masses, confessions, and afternoon Adoration are therefore canceled. We will be live streaming Mass at noon from the priory chapel.”
Mass and other liturgies ordinarily take place at both church buildings in the parish. But because of renovations underway at St. Mary's Church, all parish liturgies have been taking place in St. Joseph Church.
Fr. Walker wrote on Facebook that it is not yet clear if the church will be able to reopen Friday. When it does reopen, it will be unlocked during Mass and confession times only.
“I would ask everyone in the parish to pray to Our Lord in reparation for this sacrilege, and to St. Michael for protection against all the powers of hell,” the priest said. “Please pray, too, for the perpetrator of this action, who is clearly a very disturbed individual in need of serious help.”
Police are investigating the vandalism, Walker told CNA Friday, and federal investigators could also become involved.
The incident is the latest in a growing trend of vandalism against Catholic churches in the past week.
Earlier this week, a statue of Jesus was beheaded in the Archdiocese of Miami and a statue of the Blessed Virgin at St. Mary’s Cathedral in Colorado Springs was tagged with red paint.
A statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary was beheaded last weekend at a church in Chattanooga, Tennessee.
On July 10, a vandal spray-painted the word “idol” on the statue of the Virgin Mary at a prep school and seminary in the New York City borough of Queens.
The following day, the face, head, and upper body of a statue of the Virgin Mary were damaged in an arson attack at a parish in Boston.
On July 11, a man crashed a minivan into a Catholic church in Ocala, Florida, and then lit it on fire with gasoline while people were inside preparing for morning Mass.
At the same time that fire began, in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles the church of the Mission San Gabriel was destroyed by fire. The 18th century mission was founded by St. Junípero Serra, whom Pope Francis canonized during his 2015 visit to the U.S. The cause of the fire has not yet been determined, and is being investigated for arson.
The Archdiocese of Hartford acknowledged this trend in a Facebook post, saying, “The underlying motive of these sacrilegious attacks is clear: to intimidate and instill fear in the hearts of those who worship Christ. However, our cherished Catholic faith has survived for 2,000 years in the faces of many different oppressors, and it is not about to yield now.”
The archdiocese called on Catholics to remain unafraid and to respond to acts of hatred with love, unity, and prayers for the conversion of those trying to spread fear.
On July 15, Knights of Columbus Supreme Knight Carl Anderson said in a statement that recent attacks on Catholic statues are “attacks on Catholics and people of faith.”
“While our faith calls us to be respectful of different perspectives, acts of vandalism are crimes against all who cherish democracy and mutual respect. The Knights of Columbus remains firm in its condemnation of all forms of racism and violence, including political violence. With churches, statues, and religious symbols subject to vandalism and attack, we call upon elected officials and leaders at every level to defend the religious freedom of all,” Anderson said.
Fr. McGivney served as a priest in New Haven amid an anti-Catholic climate in the late 1800s. He established the Knights of Columbus to provide spiritual aid to Catholic men and financial help for families who had lost their breadwinner.
His sainthood cause officially opened in 1997 in the Archdiocese of Hartford. In 2008, Pope Benedict XVI declared the American-born priest a Venerable Servant of God in recognition of his life of heroic virtue.
In May, Pope Francis approved a miracle attributed to McGiveny’s intercession, paving the way for the priest to be beatified. A date for the beatification ceremony has not yet been announced.
McGivney’s cause will require one more authenticated miracle before he can be considered for canonization.